Monthly Archives: June 2014

Pembroke College Celebrates Official Openning Of Shahnama Centre for Persian Studies

Pembroke College Celebrates Official Openning Of Shahnama Centre for Persian Studies With $2M Endowment By Philanthropist Bita Daryabari

Guests admire the Shahnama exhibits at the new Shahnama Centre for Persian Studies at Pemboke College. Image courtesy of the Shahnama Centre. (photograph © Nigel Luchhurst)

San Francisco, CA (June 2, 2014) – On Saturday, May 24th, Global philanthropist Bita Daryabari and speakers from around the globe gathered to celebrate the official opening of the Shahnama Centre for Persian Studies at Pembroke College in Cambridge, England.  (Pembroke College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.)  The $2 million (US) endowment by Daryabari ensured the creation of the Centre, which aims to encourage research on Persian literature, history and art. The Centre grew out of the Cambridge Shahnama Project founded in 1999 by Professor Charles Melville and originally funded by the British Academy. It has already accumulated an extensive library with the publications dedicated to Persian literary and visual culture, particularly related to the study of the Shahnama texts and their illustrated manuscripts, which are now kept in the museums and libraries all over the world. The new Centre’s director is Dr. Firuza Abdullaeva who joined the project in 2001 being a Professor of Persian at St. Petersburg University.

At the opening event, Daryabari spoke passionately about the Shahnama Centre, noting, “We can offer the world a more accurate image of Iran.”

The benefaction will find the continued study of the Persian national epic, the Shahnama or The Book of Kings by Abu’l-Qasim Hasan Firdausi and its crucial role in the formation of the Iranian cultural identity throughout the ages to present day. The text of the Shahnama, based on the ancient Iranian mythology, was completed in 1010 and is the longest poem ever written by a single author in the whole history of humankind (40.000-80.000 double verses, depending on the version).

The event, based in Pembroke’s Old Library, included an exhibition of Medieval and Contemporary art inspired by the Shahnama.

“The enthronement of Hurmuzd,” folio from an early 14th century “CAMA” Shahnama manuscript. On temporary loan to the Shahnama Centre from the collection of the late Dr. Mehdi Gharavi. Image courtesy Ameneh Gharavi and Dean Entekabi

Speakers included professors and students involved in Persian Studies at Cambridge, including Dr. Abdullaeva, Dr. Olga Davidson, Professor Touraj Daryaee and Dr. Sussan Babaie.  All expressed an optimistic outlook for the future of Persian studies at Cambridge University.

For more information ->

The fun of being a Parsee?

It lies in many things…. It’s like belonging to an exclusive Club worldwide. Birth, the only credential and consideration; nothing, but nothing else works, no sirree!

No waiting lists, no entrance fees, no other eligibilities!

A minuscule community, incurably diasporic, but which nonetheless has woven its way into virtually every corner of the world.

A cousin of mine has a job that entails considerable travel. On one of his trips, he met another well-traveled professional, an American who, on learning my cousin was a Parsee commented, “I can’t believe Parsees are so few in number, worldwide!… wherever I go in the world, I meet a Parsee!”

Once in Sydney, traveling by bus to the Opera House, I met two elderly ladies who inquired where I was from. “From India ,” I responded. “Oh! Are you a Parsee?” pat came the counter query. On noticing my astonished look, the lady explained that she had come to know a few Parsees, from India , in Sydney , and hence the inspired guesswork. But of course, these stray anecdotes can be misleading.

When my first novel, The Turning was published, I received a letter from a reader in Cuttack, Orissa, who wrote, among other things, that in his ‘part of the world’, there were no Parsees, but that he came to know something about the community from The Turning!

The fact does remain, however, that one may come across a Parsee almost anywhere in the world; and the fun of it is, that there is generally an instant bonding of sorts, when you come across a humdin in other parts of the world. As I said, being a Parsee is, in a sense, being part of an International Club!

Being a Parsee also gives you an entrée into another coveted world: the world of the Parsee Baugs (also known as parsi colonies). I once took a Swedish friend, a visiting journalist, into Cusrow Baug for a dekho. Normally a rather reticent chap, he couldn’t stop waxing lyrical about the Baug.

“I wouldn’t have believed such a place could exist in Bombay ,” he enthused.
“So clean, so green, so quiet, well ordered!”

Indeed! Most of our baugs / colonies are indeed green, clean, relatively quiet and well ordered. More importantly, they’re miniature worlds in themselves!
Take the Dadar Parsee Colony, Cusrow Baug, Rustom Baug, Tata Blocks, Bandra, and so many others, across the length and breadth of Bombay . You step into a different world, a fairly self-contained world, still quite gracious and genteel.
Neighbors tend to become extended family, the whole baug itself becomes a close-knit, if sometimes incestuous community, where youngsters gather to play, flirt or gossip, leading sometimes to more lasting ties; young matrons gather for gossip and exchange of news and views on everything under the sun, from children, tuitions, servants and mothers-in-law to the newest fashions, best bargains and yummiest recipes; to politics, films, books and holiday destinations; young men (married and otherwise) gather to eye and discuss young women, young women, young women; (Okay, okay, I’m being mean to the men!) and elderly folk gather to pronounce judgments and lay down the law on everyone and everything they can think of!

The most blessed are the children and the elderly; they have an environment, right on their doorstep, where they can take in a gentle airing or a leisurely walk in a sheltered atmosphere, surrounded by known faces ready to lend a helping hand should some mishap occur. Children have other children they can play with, and the senior residents form their own groups and cliques, to happily pass the evening in the open air, should they be so inclined, instead of being cooped up alone in the house.

The fun of being a Parsee lies also in the celebratory nature of our festivals, the richness of our cuisine, the serene simplicity of our basic religious tenets: good thoughts, good words, good deeds … and the awesome sight of priests in pristine, flowing white, (often with a white beard to match!), appealing to the Powers-that-be in rich reverberating tones, in an atmosphere redolent with the aroma of incense and sandalwood, the flickering of the divas and the fragrance of lilies and tuberoses; and the dark, cool interior of Agiary, the perfect foil to the eternal fire that flames within!

It lies also in that insouciant irreverence that marks the true Parsee, who takes nothing too seriously, least of all himself! Who waltzes through life with sometimes boisterous bonhomie, with a fund of good will and generosity for all humankind.

The fun of being a Parsee is being able to look forward to celebrating yet another Pateti (new year), maybe with the sagan-ni-sev in the morning, followed by the dhaan-dar-patio, ending up with the sali-marghi, the three high points of the day, in between greeting friends, exchanging gifts and, of course, thanking Ahura Mazda for all the blessings so bountifully endowed on us.

So let’s count our blessings and curb our cribs; problems exist so we can think out solutions … and there is, indeed, a solution for every one of the problems facing the community. (Though of course, Parsees being Parsees, will also differ on just what actually is the problem!)

But on that, another time …”
……….. Tim Winton ?

Marlene Kanga wins Order of Australia

It pleases me to inform you that this Saturday is the official Queen’s birthday weekend in Australia and it is when the government announces its various Awards for those who have made a significant contribution to society.

Nowadays they no longer give out knighthoods in Australia (even though they are part of the Commonwealth ) but instead they have something called the Order of Australia.

Here is a link to the  Governor General’s list  that on Monday 9thJune  announced  the award of  “O of A”   on Mrs. Marlene Rustom Kanga.  She is the daughter-in-law of the Late Adi Kanga.

Marlene will be made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her contribution to Innovation and Engineering.

The link to the Governor General’s announcement is reproduced below. Please see page 63 for details.


Rusi Sorabji.

Fali Chothia Scholarships in North America

The Fali Chothia Charitable Trust is accepting applications for its 25th annual scholarship awards. Scholarships are open to Zoroastrian students in North America enrolled in four-year or graduate-level programs. Awards are based on financial need, academic achievement, extracurricular activity and community service. They are given as outright gifts or no- and low-interest loans.
To demonstrate solidarity and trust between organizations while serving community causes, the US Chapter of the World Zoroastrian Organisation is once again joining the Fali Chothia Trust’s Scholarship Program. This partnership enables the Trust to significantly increase the amount of its scholarships.

The Fali Chothia Charitable Trust was established in 1988 under the Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Washington, Inc. (ZAMWI). The Trust provides scholarships to deserving Zoroastrian students enrolled in universities in North America, regardless of their country of origin.

The deadline for submitting applications is Oct. 1, 2014, forms may be downloaded from: